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Environmental Effects of Transgenic Plants: The Scope and Adequacy of Regulation
several risk issues. These transgenes may code for enzymes leading to nonedible products or potential mammalian toxins. There is a clear potential risk involved in environmentally mediated movement of these transgenes so that transgene products enter the human food system (see BOX 5.1). Segregation, isolation, or sterilization methods may be essential to manage these risks, but several uncertainties remain about the cost and efficacy of these methods (see Letourneau et al. 2001, 56–57).
FUTURE POLICY ISSUES
The policy questions raised in the future by new transgenic crops and the many other factors that influence shifts in policy perspectives worldwide will differ from those addressed in detail for the first generation of transgenic crops. Just as it is not possible to predict future environmental risk issues, it is also not possible to predict what the future policy issues will be. This section will identify and discuss several policy issues that the committee believes will become increasingly more prominent in the future as transgenic crops expand globally and new transgenic crops become commercialized. The committee concentrates on four issues, which should be interpreted as a selective slice of the many policy issues that will arise in the future. The committee does not necessarily believe that all of these issues will be crucial ones in the future, but it does believe that they will be prominent and important.
First, the committee discusses how agricultural biotechnology is influencing agricultural structure in the United States and the policy and environmental risk issues that this may raise. Next, the global context for the commercialization of transgenic crops from a societal perspective is considered, and how transgenic crops may or may not address issues related to global food supply is examined. Third, the need for involving the public to democratize decision making and the increasing role that communicating environmental risk will likely play in the future development of biotechnology are discussed. Finally, the focus is shifted back to regulatory policy issues, with a comment on the precautionary principle and drawing particular attention to some of the opportunities that the 2000 Plant Protection Act provides APHIS.
Finding 7.7: The types of new transgenic crops that are developed, as well as the rate at which they appear, will be affected by the interplay of complex factors, including public funding and private financial support for research, the regulatory environment, public acceptance of the foods and other products produced from them, and the resolution of debates over need- versus profit-driven rationales for the development of transgenic crops.